Questions & Corrections

I have worked really hard – alongside my editor, fact-checker, and lawyers in the US and UK – to make sure everything in the book is accurate. If there are any errors left in the text, I’d be grateful for your help in correcting them for future editions and for the record. If you spot any mistakes, please email me at the address above. I’ll post corrections on the same date, and give you a shout-out for spotting them.

If there was anything the book left you wondering, please do message me at and I’ll be happy to try to figure out the answer.


  • Corrections – XV, posted April 14th 2016

    I was asked by a few people on the book’s Facebook page to respond to an article on the excellent addiction and recovery website ‘The Fix’ that was entitled ‘Four Things Hari Gets Wrong,’ by an activist called Andrew Dobbs.

    I’m happy to correct any mistakes in the book or anything I said – on this site I’ve corrected over twenty errors, and thanked the people who pointed them out in the latest edition of the book. In this case, after looking into this carefully, I could find no factual errors that were pointed out. There are some philosophical disagreements, which I’m happy to engage with, and to clarify my position here, so others can make up their own minds.

    First of all I’d like to congratulate Andrew Dobbs on his recovery, and engage in the limited disagreements I have with him in a tone of love and compassion. We are on the same side in seeking to end the war on drugs, and to make sure people with addiction problems receive love and compassion, instead of shame and stigma. Our minor disagreements are a small shadow compared to what unites us.

    I’d also clarify that Andrew is obviously responding to my TED talk and not to my book, since he claims I do not make arguments that I in fact do make in detail in the book.

    Andrew’s criticisms are as follows:

    (1) The title of my TED talk, ‘Everything You Think You Know About Addiction’, is condescending, since in fact most people with addiction problems know these things.

    But the “you” in this title, the people who I am addressing, are not just people with addiction problems, but everyone. Most of the people who have viewed this talk, just like most of the people who’ve read the book, don’t have addiction problems. I agree that most people who’ve been through addiction know the points I’m making intuitively. But we have to address a much wider audience if we are going to end this war – that’s why I’m talking to far more people than just people with addictions. And of that “you”, most of them didn’t know this stuff. I was speaking to a TED audience, of whom - I'd guess - fewer than 10% had addiction problems.

    This is a crucial point. I’m gay. I get to live as an equal citizen because gay people spoke to a much broader audience than just other gay people. That’s how we won our freedom. If we are going to win an end to the war on people with addictions, we can’t just talk to people with addictions.

    It would be condescending to tell people with addiction problems that what they know is wrong. But the “you” I’m talking to in the speech very clearly – when you watch it – isn’t people with addiction problems; it’s largely everyone else.

    If, in 1955, I had given a speech saying "Everything you think you know about homosexuality is wrong," explaining that gay people are not paedophiles etc, you can imagine some gay people might misunderstand and say: "I already knew that. How condescending." But most would have known that this wasn't a speech for them - it was a speech for everyone else, to get them to stop persecuting gay people.

    (2) He argues I have no training and I am not an addict myself, so my arguments do not have validity, or are diminished.

    In fact, my insights into addiction come from closely studying the evidence from the social sciences. I was trained in depth in the social sciences at Cambridge University, where I got a double first, the highest grade you can get; so I have been given the best training in the world at how to assess this evidence. It’s true I don’t have addiction problems. Some of the best advocates for equality for gay people were not gay – whenever a heterosexual person joins the fight for equality for gay people, I welcome them with open arms. Every successful struggle to defend a minority welcomes people from other groups who join their fight for dignity.

    (3) He argues that I fail to see that “addiction has a physical component.” He comments: “This should be obvious to everyone familiar with one of the world’s most addictive drugs – nicotine”

    In fact, my book lays out the evidence that addiction has a physical component very clearly. Indeed, I use nicotine as a key example.

    Here’s what it says:

    “It would be absurd to say the chemicals play no role at all in, say, cigarette or crack addiction. So how much really is due to the chemicals, and how much is due to the social factors? What’s the ratio?

    As I read more, I stumbled across—in the work of an amazing scientist called Richard DeGrandpre—an experiment that gives us a quite precise answer, in percentage terms. You may well be taking part in it right now.

    When nicotine patches where invented in the early 1990s, public health officials were thrilled. They believed in the theory of addiction that almost everyone believes in: addiction is caused by chemical hooks that are hidden in the drug. You use a drug for a while, and your body starts to crave and need the chemical in a physical way. This isn’t hard to grasp. Anybody who has tried to quit caffeine knows that chemical hooks are real: I am trying it as I type this, and my hands are very slightly shaking, my head is aching, and I just snapped at the guy sitting opposite me in the library.

    Everyone agrees that cigarette smoking is one of the strongest addictions: it is ranked on pharmaceutical addictiveness scales alongside heroin and cocaine. It is also the deadliest. Smoking tobacco kills 650 out of every hundred thousand people who use it, while using cocaine kills four. And we know for sure what the chemical hook in tobacco is—it’s nicotine.

    The wonder of nicotine patches, then, is that they can meet a smoker’s physical need—the real in-your-gut craving—while bypassing some of the really dangerous effects of smoking tobacco. So if the idea of addiction we all have in our heads is right, nicotine patches will have a very high success rate. Your body is hooked on the chemical; it gets the chemical from the nicotine patch; therefore, you won’t need to smoke anymore.

    The pharmacology of nicotine patches works just fine—you really are giving smokers the drug they are addicted to. The level of nicotine in your bloodstream doesn’t drop if you use them, so that chemical craving is gone. There is just one problem: even with a nicotine patch on, you still want to smoke. The Office of the Surgeon General has found that just 17.7 percent of nicotine patch wearers were able to stop smoking.

    How can this be? There’s only one explanation: something is going on that is more significant than the chemicals in the drug itself. If solving the craving for the chemical ends 17.7 percent of the addictions in smokers, the other 82.3 percent has to be explained some other way.

    Now, 17.7 percent certainly isn’t a trivial amount. That’s a large number of people with improved lives. It would be foolish and wrong to say the drug has no effect—tobacco cigarettes are considerably more addictive than menthol cigarettes, to give just one example. But it would be equally foolish to say what we have been saying for a century—that the chemicals themselves are the main cause of drug addiction. That assertion doesn’t match the evidence.

    This point is worth underscoring. With the most powerful and deadly drug in our culture, the actual chemicals account for only 17.7 percent of the compulsion to use. The rest can only be explained by the factors Gabor and Bruce have discovered.”

    So I in fact make the very argument he accuses me of not making. I had also made this argument in many interviews by the time he wrote this article.

    (4) He argues that I say loneliness is the only cause of addiction, and that this is not the case.

    Here, Andrew is arguing against a case I have never made. When I talk about disconnection being a cause of addiction, I am not just talking about disconnection from the people around you – I am also, as I lay out at length in the book, talking about disconnection from meaning and purpose and other deeper forms of disconnection. Loneliness is a significant component; but I have never said it is the only one. If I had, Andrew would be right to criticize it.

    (5) He says with addiction, “the determining factor is almost certainly physical and/or genetic.”

    He asserts this without evidence. While there are physical and genetic components, I go through the evidence in the book that suggests this view that it is the "determining factor" is incorrect. I would urge Andrew to read the work of Professor Marc Lewis, Professor Carl Hart, Stanton Peele, and others who have engaged with this in depth. The claims he says is "almost certain" is in fact massively contested, and there is no evidence for it. (These factors are real, but they are not "the determining factor", above all else.)

    (6) He says I fail to acknowledge that “enabling is a real threat to addicts,” and then explores the problems that can emerge if somebody facilitates destructive behavior by addicts.

    Andrew is again arguing against a position I don’t hold. I have always made clear that it is possible to develop destructive relationships with people who have addiction problems, and that this can be bad for both the addicted person, and the person who believes they are helping them.

    All I said is that I’m against cutting off people with addiction problems, or threatening them, as a first resort, or as anything other than an absolute last resort. That doesn’t mean I’m in favor of giving every person with an addiction anything they ask for, or tolerating anything they try to do. I’ve never said that, and I’ve never done that. It would be right to criticize anyone who said that; but that person isn't me.

    (7) He says it is “irresponsible” of me to speak to people about the need for them to strengthen their relationships with addicts, without at the same time warning that people with addiction may not respect boundaries.

    In a short twelve minute talk, I couldn’t say everything. There is nobody in Western culture who doesn’t know that addicts can be chaotic, ask for too much, or behave destructively. They don’t need me to spell it out. When I sit with people who are trying to love someone with addiction, I do discuss this topic, and how I’ve tried to deal with it in my life. But if you give me twelve minutes to talk to a large audience, I won’t focus on reiterating points literally everyone knows.

    (8) He says I fail to acknowledge that “sobriety is connection.”

    He makes the case that for many people, they discover connection precisely through discovering communities of other sober people who are recovering from addiction problems.

    I agree with Andrew that sobriety, for many people, can be a route to connection. It’s one I have urged for some of the people I most love.

    But I do not believe that sobriety is always connection. I know lots of sober people who are profoundly disconnected, and it manifests as depression or anxiety. So I don’t think it is true to say “sobriety is connection”, as an invariable rule.

    (9) He then argues that I have never apologized since 2011 for some serious errors I made many years ago in some of my journalism. In fact I explored these questions in depth, four months before Andrew wrote this piece, in an interview in the Guardian with Decca Aitkenhead, and apologized in depth. If he had googled my name, it would have been one of the top results, so I am puzzled about why he made this claim.

    I am sure Andrew will, if he looks at this evidence, correct the factual errors in his piece.

  • Corrections XIV – posted September 8th 2015

    A few more corrections have come through from readers:

    On page 121, explaining the origins of the Mexican drug cartel the Zetas, I wrote: “It would be as if the Navy Seals defected from the U.S. Army to help the Crips take over Los Angeles— and succeeded.” Michael Amygdalidis emailed to point out that the Navy Seals aren’t part of the US Army – they’re part of the US Navy, so the sentence doesn’t make much sense. In future, it will say “defected from the US military.” Thanks to Michael for pointing this out.

    On page 277, I refer to the city of Waunakee, where Tonya Winchester worked. She in fact worked in the city of Wenatchee. Thanks to Vito Perillo and Geoff Ashworth for pointing this out.

    And although nobody has mentioned them, I also want to correct two small mistakes I realized I made in a few interviews in Australia.

    I discussed the evidence that 85 percent of people who use ‘ice’ (crystal meth) don’t become addicted, and I referred to research by Professor Carl Hart at Columbia University. I learned about this research from Carl, and he has written about it himself brilliantly, and conducted other crucial research into this drug. But the original research yielding the 85 percent figure was in fact carried out – as Carl himself acknowledges whenever he writes or talks about it – by MS O’Brien and JC Anthony. It was published in the journal Drug Alcohol Dependency in September 2009, in the article ‘Extra-medical stimulant dependence among recent initiates.’ I apologize for this error: I’ll give them the credit whenever I discuss this in future.

    Also, I have tried to stress in interviews I’ve done that whenever I quote from one of the subjects of my book when I speaking off the cuff, on the radio or in answer to questions at events, I’m paraphrasing them – I haven’t memorized verbatim everything they said to me. It occurred to me that I forgot to do that in some of my more recent speeches. So I’d like to reiterate that all the quotes in the book are verbatim and can be heard on this website; any quote I offer from memory when giving non-scripted talks or interviews in public may be slightly off and if you want the exact words, it’s best to consult the book, or the audio I’ve posted here.

    If there are any mistakes you spot in the book, please do email me, and I’ll thank you here: the email address is

  • Corrections XIII – posted 11th April 2015

    A few more corrections have been brought to my attention.

    Jonas van Hoffmann emailed to point out two mistakes. On page 259, it says President Mujica of Uruguay was elected in 2005. This is a typo: he was elected in 2009. On page 273, I discuss how representatives of the British drug reform group Transform went to Uruguay to advise President Mujica. It should be phrased to make it clear that the representatives who went were Steve Rolles and Lisa Sanchez; Danny Kushlick offered ideas and strategic advice from Britain but did not go to Uruguay.

    Erin Flanigan emailed to point out that on page 110, I refer to Sheriff Joe Arpaio as having a “shining yellow lawmaker's badge”. It should say a “shining lawman’s badge” – his job is not to make the law but to uphold the law.

    John Fitzgerald emailed to point out that on page 160, I have phrased something imprecisely: it sounds as if I am saying that Dr Vincent Felitti conducted a different study to the Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey; in fact, he was one of the leading scientists on that original project.

    And Andres Seidler emailed to point out two typos. On page 94, it says: “I kept trying to understand this dynamic, and the more cops I met— people who were not racist, but had produced a racist outcome— there more it came into focus.” It should say “the more it came into focus.” And on page 266, I write: "One of the successes of prohibition that it probably does hold down drug use somewhat.” It should of course say: “One of the successes of prohibition is that is probably does hold down drug use somewhat.”

    Thank you to Jonas, Erin, John and Andres! These will all be corrected in future editions. If anyone reading this spots any other mistakes please do email me - - and I’ll give you a shout-out here.

  • Corrections XII

    Brent Stone emailed to point out a typo. On page 77 in some editions of the book it says: "A few years after the incident Chino I was describing, an in-depth investigation by the federal government..." It should of course say "A few years after the incident Chino was describing, an in-depth investigation by the federal government...." without the additional 'I'. Thanks to Brent for spotting this - it will be corrected in all future editions.

  • Corrections XI – posted March 19th 2015

    The excellent translator who is preparing the Spanish version of the book, María José Viejo, noticed some typos and minor errors that I’m keen to correct for the record and in future editions.


    The first is a sentence that could be clearer. On page 269, it says: “After drug prohibition, it’s reasonable to expect that the milder forms of drugs that were popular before prohibition will come back, just as beer did.” A few people stumbled on this sentence – it would be clearer to say “After drug prohibition ends, it’s reasonable…”


    On pages 53 and 141, where it says “Plato o plomo,” it should in fact say say “Plata o plomo.”


    On page 133, where it says “Fronterisa Baja”, it should say “Fronteriza Baja.”


    On page 163, where it says “arbeit macht frei,” it should say “Arbeit macht frei”. (My dad, who is a German speaker, also noticed this with a tut).


    On pages 336 and 372, where it says ‘9 Murders a Day’, (referring to the name of a documentary), it should say '8 Murders a Day.'


    On pages 353 note 1, and 354 note 8 and 366, where it says ‘Rosencoff’, it should say‘Rosencof’.


    Also, a few lines were cut for legal reasons at the last minute, but due to a production glitch, we didn’t cut the endnotes that go with them. They will be cut in future editions. They are:


    On page 330


    107 fight in the showers Gabba later told me she did not believe these women were telling the truth and she had never seen that happen.”


    107 proven to happen in California See the HBO documental Gladiator Days.”


    And on page 331


    112 to switch her off  <>.”


    Thanks to Mario for spotting these – I really appreciate it.

  • Corrections X – posted March 12th 2015

    Nancy Carroll emailed to point out a typo. On page 211, I mistyped Ed Bradley's name as "Ed Brantley". Thanks to Nancy for pointing this out - it will be corrected in future editions.